The Importance of Imagination

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As a child, I never really considered how important imagination was until now. It’s a childhood profession, it comes naturally. I remembered playing for hours with nothing but myself, the surrounding area, and my growing imagination. I was the young heroine who saved the world countless times, a princess of the secret kingdom of fairies, the astronaut who explored the vast universe, even the crazy inventor who made the first hovercraft. Whatever we wanted to be or do, we did it. We had complete control of the world within our heads.

Then we hit an age when we’re considered mature enough to be presented with a scantron of bubble-in options, long hours of studying, and lots of hand-cramping notetaking. At that point, our learning has to fit into certain parameters: within that little bubble, within the next three hours, and within the one-page limit.  So, what happens to our imagination?

It seems to fade. Leaving our minds dry like a desert, there’s just simply no more room for creativity among the academic learning and the pressures of life.

Being Asian doesn’t help at all. The assumption that you are more suited for law or medicine is like a nagging tail, along with the high standard your parents push onto you to get straight A’s. Apparently. we asians have a so-called fondness for numbers. If you’re Asian, everyone assumes that you must be good at math – of course.

Well, then I turned out to be an oddball. I was far more interested colors and shapes instead. At the age of 12, my dream was to be an designer, presumably one in the fashion industry, in which I possibly could become the next Chanel or Alexander Mcqueen; if it went well. My parents however, never indulged me in that dream.  Like many other parents, they thought that was my dream was straight-up ridiculous and outrageous. Therefore, my dreams were deliberately crushed and they got me math books to study instead.

As I grew older, as the reading list of books grew longer, the assignments tougher, and hours of sleep decrease as a student in high school. The ability to just sit down and pour your imagination onto a blank canvas began to disappear.

My middle school history teacher once told me that history was not the typical timeline one thinks of with the word “history”. To him, history was a long, never-ending story filled with plot twists and surprises. He threw out the stereotypical view of history, making what was considered dead, dry, and ancient, to charming, engaging, and even humorous, at times. That was his way of expressing his imagination, and it helped me develop a deep love for the social sciences. AP European History isn’t hard, it is challenging, and I guess that’s the reason why I love that class so much. Because of him, I learned how contagious imagination can be. Thank you Mr. Mayfield.

This makes me wonder however, that can this love for the imaginative ever find a place in the real world?  My answer: certainly.

In the world of today, where business meets creativity, what may seem impossible today is pretty much reality tomorrow. Who knew that Facebook would be so three-years ago and Instagram the next biggest thing? Who knew that smartphones would replace fancy cameras and pricey computers? Who knew that we’d be talking in just 140 characters in the 21st century? Perhaps, the folks at Twitter did.

Imagination doesn’t just create fairy tales and children’s books, it also creates a new vision for the way we conduct our lives. Imaginations challenge the normal, push boundaries, and help us progress in our lives.

Unfortunately, imagination is getting sidelined in classrooms, where the emphasis has been on grades and testing for too long, where scantrons and google slide presentations has become a daily gruesome chore.

We need to encourage more creativity. We need the younger generation to think outside the box. Forget the life-changing exam for a minute. Forget the obsession with grades. If we encourage the future generation to be more imaginative and innovative, the world would be a much better place. The tools are there. We just need to lean towards the unexpected. That’s where creativity is so essential.

Yours Truly,
Joanna

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